Sports

Red Wolves stage a soccer clinic against Falcons — in the first half

Forward Grace Itaya mixes it up with the Red Wolf goalie Tuesday — her attempted goal missed the net by inches. The Lady Falcons lost 5-1, but their second-half strategy bodes well for the playoff schedule. - Jeff VanDerford
Forward Grace Itaya mixes it up with the Red Wolf goalie Tuesday — her attempted goal missed the net by inches. The Lady Falcons lost 5-1, but their second-half strategy bodes well for the playoff schedule.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

Just when the Lady Falcons soccer team is ramping up for the playoffs, they take a hard fall.

But their 5-1 loss to Cedarcrest at home Tuesday may have a silver lining.

Now 4-7 in the Cascade Conference (4-8 overall), South Whidbey is third from the bottom in the standings.

The Red Wolves scored four unanswered points in the first half, demonstrating their power and quick response to changing field conditions, reasons they are 10-2 and second in the league after Archbishop Murphy.

Falcon goalie Natasha Kamps did her best — Cedarcrest would have scored more without Kamps’ spectacular saves.

“Natasha is doing a great job for us, learning and improving with each game,” Falcon coach Paul Arand said. “She had to deal with some point-blank shots that would have gotten past anyone.”

It was clear early on that Falcon forwards Grace Itaya and Karissa Thomas were being targeted; Itaya seldom went anywhere without being closely covered by three Red Wolf defenders. It was a wise decision by Cedarcrest coach Greg Anderson because Itaya came oh-so-close to scoring several times.

“We know all about Grace, she has a well-deserved rep for being fearless at the net,” Anderson said. “Stopping her is always a priority.”

Meanwhile, Thomas — slowed this year by a recurrent leg injury — tried to stay as inconspicuous as possible but to no avail; whenever she strayed within 20 yards of the Cedarcrest goal, the defense pounced.

With the score 4-0 at the break, Arand made some adjustments.

“I told them they needed to step up their intensity level and apply more pressure,” Arand said. He did more than talk the talk, though.

When play resumed, the midfield and back positions had been rearranged. Martha Gil-Osorio went to defensive sweeper while Lauren Sandri moved up on the outside to capitalize on her speed.

“Martha did a great job attacking the ball when Lauren created openings and exploited defensive errors,” Arand noted.

Shannon Craig was moved cross-field and Hanna Banks, Kylie DeMartini, Laurie Robinson, Annie Doran and Morgan Tuttle assisted in shoring up the inside mix.

Major changes in the midst of battle can lead to disaster, or, a turnaround.

Faced with the new line-up, Cedarcrest appeared unsettled and the Falcons fought them to a 1-1 tie in the second half.

The high point for South Whidbey offensively in the second half came as Karissa Thomas powered through several defenders for the team’s only score.

“I got the ball on the outside and figured I should run just as fast as I could,” Thomas recalled. “I went through three girls and another overran me and I was right in front of the goal.

“So I kicked it in.”

Arand felt the team played much tighter in the second half and hopes the strategy he devised can help the girls in the games ahead.

“Nothing is permanent but we hope these new positions will carry us forward into next week and beyond,” Arand said.

Thomas hopes the changes work as well. “It’s true we have a pretty young team this year and sometimes it seems like we’re sort of standing still,” she said. “Continuing to grow as a team and stay focused are the goals at this point.”

Thursday, the team fell to Granite Falls 1-0 in a hard-fought defensive contest.

At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23, ATM visits for the last home game. It’s Senior Night and the team will be serving free cider, hot chocolate and cookies before the game.

As of now, South Whidbey will have a single-elimination crossover game against a Northwest Conference team, possibly Mount Baker, before district playoffs begin in

Bellingham.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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